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Rob Lambert (Winchester, UK)

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The Art of iPhone Photography: Creating Great Photos and Art on Your iPhone
The Art of iPhone Photography: Creating Great Photos and Art on Your iPhone
by Bob Weil
Edition: Paperback
Price: £26.94

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully presented book - great inspiration, 9 Dec. 2013
The Art Of iPhone Photography is a beautifully presented book of photos, hints and tips and techniques on how to take good photos with your iPhone.

Don't worry though, it's not strictly just for iPhone users; there are many techniques, apps and processes that are available Android users also.

Throughout the books the authors, Bob Weil and Nicki Fitz-Gerald, have brought together some of the most compelling images taken from mobile phones where they proceed to explain the techniques, apps and processes behind these images.

Each image chosen is explored in a mini case study complete with example images. There are detailed step by step instructions on how to apply the same process to get a similar result. The instructions are very clear and the technology is explained well. It's a really easy book to read - helped by a great deal of images.

To accompany each case study there are also a few words from the photographer behind the photo. These help to give the book a really natural personal feel. This helps to make the book more readable and the photos more believable - trust me, some of the photos look out of this world and way beyond the means of a mobile phone camera.

The book is brilliantly laid out - it's a beautiful read (I was reading this in PDF version). Lovely clean and clear images and lots of nice separation of content. It's a really nice book to read.

Overall this is a great book to give you inspiration to take more interesting photos. The step by step instructions should mean you can get similar results to the examples.

Good book for those interested in iPhone photography.

Team Geek: A Software Developer's Guide to Working Well with Others
Team Geek: A Software Developer's Guide to Working Well with Others
by Brian W. Fitzpatrick
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Teak Geek is a good all round book for techies., 22 Mar. 2013
I've been reading Team Geek for a long time now. Not because it isn't easy to read, or interesting, or useful, but because each chapter seems to hold a valuable lesson I can bring to the work place. And in doing this reading followed by action I've ended up taking a little longer to read this book than usual.

It really is a great book. I've recommended it to my peers and we've also ordered a couple of copies for the office. It's maybe a step too far to say it's essential reading for anyone working in a development culture but it should certainly be high on your reading list if you work in a tech department.

It's packed with great hints, tips and stories on how to work better with others, how to respect other people and how to look at the big picture of the workplace. It's written by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman, both well respected and established members of the development community who bring to this book a really good set of insights around people and how they work together.

There really are too many topics covered to summarise them here but the authors cover such topics as "How tools affect your culture", being a "servant leader", "growing cultures" and dealing with "poisonous" people.

The book is well written also and is super accessible. It's clearly laid out and interspersed with some fun images which make reading this book enjoyable. It's a really enjoyable book and one I think anyone working in tech would benefit from reading.

WordPress: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
WordPress: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
by Matthew MacDonald
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not much depth but decent introduction, 12 Dec. 2012
The book covers a very wide range of topics from choosing between and self-hosted to creating websites using Wordpress. In between are all sorts of chapters that cover layout, themes, attracting an audience and embedding media.

The language is simple and the terms are well explained. This is a common theme with the missing manual books; they keep it simple.

There are plenty of examples, stories and screen shots to keep you rolling on through the book with ease. There's not much here for people who aren't afraid to explore wordpress or have been using it for a while. It's very basic and a little simplistic for many, but if you're brand new to blogging and Wordpress (and not feeling comfortable exploring the features) then this book could be for you. Much of the content is freely available from other sources on the web, but the book does tie it all together well and keeps the tone consistent.

It's an ok book that gives a good introduction - it's not amazingly in depth though and you could find yourself wanting for more.

Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Mountain Lion Edition (Missing Manuals)
Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Mountain Lion Edition (Missing Manuals)
by David Pogue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.24

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, lots of content and easy to read, 29 Nov. 2012
This review is part of the Oreilly blogger review scheme.

I've been running on a MacBook Pro now for a few months after being on Windows for many years, and I thought I'd mastered much of what the Mac has to offer but after reading this book I realised there was plenty still left to explore.

Like all books aiming to appeal to a vast audience with a range of different skills and interests, there were sections that were not suited to my needs. There were some sections where I knew some of what was being talked about and there were sections that were insightful and very useful. I suspect this would be the case for many readers.

The chapters are often accompanied by useful and suitable graphics where needed. The language is very simple to understand and the author does a good job of explaining complicated processes and jargon. The book is very easy to dip in and out of as needed. It's quite a long book and there is a lot of content to get through. It's a great value book for those moving to the Mac from PC.

Overall it is a good book that is easy to read, easy to understand but ultimately the value will come down to how relevant each chapter and section will be to you. Recommended.

The Data Journalism Handbook
The Data Journalism Handbook
Price: £7.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, needs a bit more tuning, 23 Oct. 2012
I've mostly enjoyed reading this book, although it was repetitive and I did find myself skipping entire chapters.

There were a number of errors and typos and it was clear that the content was pooled together from a number of different sources - some of the articles could do with further editorial review. Some of the articles seemed to be repeating a lot of what others had said which I guess is to be expected when pooling opinions and ideas from people in the field.

There were some insightful ideas and concepts, and some of the stories from teams like The Guardian and BBC were interesting to read, but the overall feel of the book seemed disjointed. It's an interesting read if you want an insight in to how different teams are making the most of available data, tools and techniques for communicating this data. If you can overlook the repetition and the typos then it's worthy of a dig through for stories on how data is becoming important in journalism, and journalism is important for the data.

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption
The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read but got felt like a call to political arms, 3 July 2012
The Information Diet by Clay A.Johnson is an interesting read about the problem of having too much information coming at you. We hear lots about Information Overload or Filter Failure but as Clay alludes to in the book, these are not actually new concepts.

Throughout the book the author draws some very interesting and meaningful analogies between the food industry and the data industry. I think the analogy works well.

Driven by a desire for more profits, and a desire to feed more people, manufacturers figured out how to make food really cheap; and the stuff that's the worst for us tends to be the cheapest to make. As a result, a healthy diet--knowing what to consume and what to avoid--has gone from being a luxury to mandatory for our longevity.

"Much as a poor diet gives us a variety of diseases, poor information diets give us new forms of ignorance--ignorance that comes not from a lack of information, but from over-consumption of it, and sicknesses and delusions that don't affect the under-informed but the hyper-informed and the well educated."

Clay makes a passionate case for controlling our desires to consume anything and instead to make controlled choices about the information we digest. You can see how the analogy to food and diet works so well through the book.

"Like any good diet, the information diet works best if you think about it not as denying yourself information, but as consuming more of the right stuff and developing healthy habits."

Clay makes some very interesting points about it all being a personal choice. It is indeed a personal choice to consume information but it's not always so easy to change the habit.

"Blaming a medium or its creators for changing our minds and habits is like blaming food for making us fat."

"Though we constantly complain of it--of all the news, and emails, and status updates, and tweets, and the television shows that we feel compelled to watch--the truth is that information is not requiring you to consume it."

Clay talks about how we need to restrict our information to that which challenges our thinking, not re-enforces or gives us affirmation. He turns this slightly to also talk about how we are being dumbed down because we are reading what we want, rather than the truth. The networks, providers and social channels of information are in turn feeding this selectivity. Hence we are only being exposed to what we typically already agree with. This is leading to ignorance.

"Giving people what they want is far more profitable than giving them the facts."

Towards the middle of the book Clay talks a lot about the science behind our thinking and consumption of information looking at Heuristics and cognitive bias. These sections lose the more accessible nature of the rest of the book, but are crucial to giving the full insights.

In concluding the book Clay talks about attention and how best to consume information.

There's a political theme that rides through to the whole of the book which at times felt like it took over the main message (assuming the main message was about information). Clay mentions a lot of the work he did in politics and his view of political information. The end chapters of the book though feel more heavily politically tinged than the rest of the book and took me by surprise. It didn't feel like the book needed the political ending, but I guess maybe this was one of the purposed of the book - to get people to think about politics more critically.

The last chapters almost read like a call to arms to change politics (American politics) which didn't seem fitting with the rest of the book.

I was disappointed not to have more hints and tips on how to consume healthier diets of information but maybe that was not the intent of the author.

It's a good insight in to information, how we consume it, how it consumes us and what we can do to change. The political call to arms aside the book is an accessible and interesting read. You'll learn lots from reading this book and that to me is the sign of a good non-fiction book.

Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works (Lean (O'Reilly))
Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works (Lean (O'Reilly))
by Ash Maurya
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas, concepts and introduction to lean for startups, 9 May 2012
One of the things that strikes me about the book Running Lean is how practice almost all of the advice is. It's not a long book, but it gave me great breadth of knowledge in to the aspects of running a lean business. It's not a massive step from most of the good Toyota books on lean but it does have a different angle (more start-up company focused) and it does make many of the lean ideas easier to understand.

I really liked the way the author focused on the Lean Canvas idea for distilling and communicating ideas about your business. It sometimes felt overkill but overall it was useful and I've already seen some value from having a go at writing down my ideas.

The book also serves as a way of questioning your ideas about your business with particular respect to whether not you have an audience that will actually buy your products.

For example the author, Ash-Maurya, states:

"Failing to build a significant path to customers is among the top reasons why startups fail"

Throughout the book Ash talks a lot about finding the right audience and the right product - it's the basics of getting success in the market - but Ash also talks a lot about why it's important to only build the minimum to satisfy this audience and market needs.

There is some talk about work in progress, Kanban boards and daily flow, but not enough to make it worth buying this book just for those topics. Instead, this book takes a more holistic approach across many functions and elements of a business so it glances over many topics but does give a nice wide view of running a lean business.

There are some interesting work hacks (i.e. - how to get stuff done) in the book also but again, there are other books with more depth in time management, productivity and work ethics.

I don't believe this book is for those wanting a deep dive on certain areas of running a successful and lean business. Instead I believe it is for those who want an introduction and some techniques, tools and models to use to decide, plan and act on their business, and for this audience this book is very good indeed.

There are some interesting ideas and insights in to how to get continuous flow working in your business as well as ideas on how to ensure you're best prepared to ship software.

I really enjoyed this book but I think that if you read around lean anyway you will already have gained most of these insights. Saying that, the Lean Canvas is a neat tool for helping you think about and organise your thoughts around your business. It can certainly help you drive out the audience for your business and some of the ideas around what it is you are offering and for what price.

Overall a pretty good book. Very well written too and great for those who are thinking about heading down the lean route or are looking for ways to optimise their existing business, but too shallow for those who read around this topic in further detail.

Designing Data Visualizations
Designing Data Visualizations
by Noah Iliinsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.50

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Designing Data Visualizations is a good book for basics of visualization, 3 April 2012
The book is an introduction to creating visualizations to express data, information or other findings. It introduces the concepts, explains why you might use visualizations and then explains some of the good and bad techniques.

It's a very relevant book to many as we strive to communicate the growing amount of data we are capturing. The book introduces the many different types of data visualisations including info-graphics and the use of charts, tables, graphs etc. The authors spend a lot of time explaining the reasons behind the visualizations which is very important, but often overlooked in other books. There is lots of information about colors, fonts, audiences and purposes and the channels used.

The authors support each piece of information with examples and external references, which adds lots of credibility to their arguments. There are some really insightful ideas and a lot of examples of good and bad visualizations which help make each point easier to understand.

It's great that the authors spend time talking about color blindness and the psychology behind colors, locations, shapes and proximity. I found this chapter incredibly useful indeed.

At times it felt like the book repeated itself, especially in the first few chapters. I got the sense I was reading the same information again, but thankfully the later chapters made the content more distinct.

Overall this is an easy to read and fun book that gives you the background, insight and tool ideas needed for you to get cracking with building visuals. It's a good book for dipping in and out of to get inspiration and ideas on visualizing data.

Very good book indeed.

The Myths of Innovation
The Myths of Innovation
by Scott Berkun
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, loses focus somewhat, 17 Oct. 2011
I have read The Myths of Innnovation twice. The first time around I wasn't especially enamored with this book. It felt too lightweight in it's structure and the language felt too comfortable. It was easy to read, and as such, it didn't feel like most of the books out there discussing the dreaded "I" word, Innovation.

I then realized I'd made a number of significant and interesting notes and decided to re-read the book. I actually really enjoyed it the second time around. I guess my expectations were that the book would be a scientific heavyweight (not sure where that expectation came from though).

The main concept in the book is along the lines of "Do cool work, accept that ideas come from other ideas and if the timings right, cool things will happen". And throughout the book that message is re-enforced with good examples and stories.

There was a point in the middle where I started to lose focus somewhat, but the examples brought me back in and it felt good to have finished the book. Scott picked some really well known innovations to tell a story about how ideas come about, all of which revolved around the concept that no idea is brand new. All ideas come from other ideas. All Innovations can be broken down and traced back to several other ideas.

Scott also suggests that many ideas are beyond our control and exist outside of us. Scott also talks about how ideas and innovations gain traction in society and culture. He makes a point of suggesting Myths and marketing spin are more effective at promotion than education, something which we clearly see in many products and services.

He makes some very interesting points about Historians being able to tell a story deciding which facts to include and which ones to leave out. A great element of story telling. Scott is also clear that history always contains a viewpoint and interpretation.

I enjoyed the book and it's easy style makes it very accessible and readable. I think anyone who is interested in ideas creation; creativity and where ideas come from would enjoy this book. As too would anyone interested in marketing or entrepreneurship. It's got them all covered. Although it won't give you concrete advice it will sow some interesting seeds of thought in your mind.

A Gaijin's Guide to Japan: An Alternative Look at Japanese Life, History and Culture
A Gaijin's Guide to Japan: An Alternative Look at Japanese Life, History and Culture
by Ben Stevens
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read, just not a guidebook or story.., 3 Sept. 2009
I rented A Gaijin's Guide to Japan from the local library.

It's actually a really good book with some useful information contained within it. It's formatted in an A-Z style with lots of emphasis on culture and beliefs and customs. I've never been to Japan to use the information contained but it looks pretty conscise. It's certainly not a reference or guide book but a supplemental book.

The writing style is light-hearted and fun. I found it quite tricky to read sometimes because of the sentence structure but that's a minor niggle really. It didn't take me long to blast through the book but I did find myself wavering in the middle. This was mainly due to the A-Z style rather than a personal story format. There's no story bringing me back. It's just references but not in a guide book style.

Other than that though I liked the book a lot and I thought the author, Ben Stevens, has written a great little read. Just don't rely on it for all your facts for Japan. Also - was not impressed to find no mention section on Bento (obento).

For the price it's on at Amazon it's definitely worth a punt.


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